This Proposal Would Help Hospitals in West Virginia Treat Drug Overdoses

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The National Rural Health Association has thrown its support behind a new proposal to provide more resources and guidelines for rural hospitals help people treated for a drug overdose.

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), have introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress – H.R. 5176, the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act – that would provide competitive grants for emergency departments in areas with high overdose rates.

These grants would allow qualifying facilities to hire recovery coaches, counselors, social workers and other professionals specializing in the treatment of substance abuse disorder, establish policies and procedures for the provision of overdose reversal medication, and increase the availability and access of medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatment, among other things.

The legislation would also require the development of protocols for discharging patients who treated for a drug overdose and enhance the integration and coordination of care and treatment options for individuals with substance use disorder after they are discharged.

The National Rural Health Association wrote to both representatives last week to express our support for H.R. 5176.

This critical legislation provides preference for rural facilities, specifically Critical Access Hospitals, Sole Community Hospitals, and Low Volume Hospitals, in the grant process. Currently, 82.5 percent of rural counties do not have a single doctor with the ability to provide MAT, these communities are unable to access this crucial resource on the path to recovery.

You can learn more about the bill at

To learn more about the National Rural Health Association and it’s legislative advocacy, visit


Our First Look at West Virginia’s New Opioid Response Plan

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Expanding the authority of West Virginia’s public health officials to address inappropriate prescribing of pain medications, requiring all first responders to carry naloxone, and supporting programs that help children and families affected by opioid addiction are just some of the recommendations that feature in the new Opioid Response Plan.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) submitted its final recommendations for the Opioid Response Plan to Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature following a period of expert study and public input.

Read more about the Opioid Response Plan at

Could This One Simple Idea Convince More Doctors to Practice in West Virginia?

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Talent. Smarts. Ingenuity. Brilliance.

Whatever you call it, when it comes to fixing a problem there is no substitute for intelligent people with the appropriate skills and training.

Which is why the West Virginia Rural Health Association supports efforts to encourage hardworking medical professionals to live and work in this state, to grow the local talent pool and to improve the health services available here.

The proposal: A tax credit for doctors that locate their practice in West Virginia.

There has been a proposal introduced to the West Virginia State Legislature to do just that, and we think it’s worth supporting.

State Sen. Dr. Tom Takubo (R-Kanawha) has introduced a bill – Senate Bill 103 – that would provide a tax credit for graduates of any accredited allopathic or osteopathic medical school in the United States that locate their practice in West Virginia.

The proposal is spurred by his belief, which is shared by many other medical professionals here, that West Virginia may soon find itself with a chronic shortage of doctors and health care workers.

“I don’t think people appreciate the crisis we’re potentially heading to,” Takubo told the State Journal this week.

The bill states that West Virginia already suffers from “a tremendous lack of physicians.”

“This creates a crisis in the delivery of health care services to one of the unhealthiest populations in the nation,” the bill language reads. “As a state we need to seek ways to attract qualified physicians to locate here to provide our citizens necessary health care services and to promote the general good health of this state.”

The bill is currently one of 32 bills scheduled for deliberation in the Senate Finance Committee.

Here’s a list of the senators that make up the finance committee. If you are concerned about the shortage of doctors in West Virginia and support this bill, give one of them a call and urge them to pass Senate Bill 103.

Forget The Numbers. Here’s the Only Thing You Need to Know About a Sugary Drinks Tax in West Virginia.

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Something has to change. You know that as well as I do.

You’ve been bombarded with the enormous numbers for so long now, that they no longer feel like they really mean anything. The tens of thousands of sick children, the hundreds of millions of dollars it costs us, the life expectancy rate falling, the West Virginians dying young.

The facts of the issue are so horrifying that we’ve become immune to them I think.

So I’m not going to throw more numbers at you. Because I know you already know that we have a problem.

All I’m going to ask of you is that you demand that West Virginia’s state legislators do something to begin to fight against the obesity epidemic that is crippling our state and its people. Anything.

Thanks in part to these companies’ relentless pursuit of profits, this generation of young Americans is the first in modern U.S. history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

Adding just a few cents to the price of the sugary soda drinks that are partly responsible for this crisis is at least a start.

That’s why we support the proposal for a Sugary Drinks Tax that will be considered in the current legislative session.

Now, you’ll probably hear lots of people raise lots of different arguments against a Sugary Drinks Tax.

That’s because Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and their trade group, the American Beverage Association, spend tens of millions of dollars each year on lobbying and public relations to fight against proposals like this.

Why? Because their billion dollar profits depend on people consuming more of their product, despite the fact that it makes them sick. Their marketing particularly targets children. Their profits depend on children consuming too much sugar each day, getting fat and getting sick.

Thanks in part to these companies’ relentless pursuit of profits, this generation of young Americans is the first in modern U.S. history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.

The proposal is simple. By adding a few extra cents to cost of the soda that is making our kids sick, we can hopefully discourage them from drinking so much of it. And that tax of a few cents will provide a new revenue stream of millions of dollars to pay for health services in West Virginia.

In the City of Philadelphia, a new soda tax was projected to bring in $46 million in the first six months of 2017. It only produced about $40 million. That sounds like a revenue failure that I think West Virginia could really use.

Right now, we need every dollar we can get to help West Virginia’s sick and underserved population, and to improve the health of our future generations.

Like I said, the soda companies and their lobbyists will be working hard to smokescreen and confuse you about the issue.

You’ll hear that this is “a micro solution to a macro problem” – that reducing consumption of sugary drinks is not going to solve the entire problem of obesity or the connection between poverty and poor health in America.

No, it won’t. But it’s a start. This argument is just an excuse to do nothing. It’s kind of like saying that requiring people to wear seatbelts is not going to prevent all car accident injuries, so we shouldn’t bother.

You’ll also hear that it won’t generate as much money for health programs as supporters will calculate.

One such “failure” that opponents highlight is in the City of Philadelphia, where a new soda tax was projected to bring in $46 million in the first six months of 2017. It only produced about $40 million.

That sounds like a revenue failure that I think West Virginia could really use.

The health of all West Virginians, particularly children, stand to benefit from this effort to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks.

Soft drink companies stand to lose a small fraction of their multi-billion dollar profits.

As debate continues this year about instituting a Sugary Drinks Tax in West Virginia, pay attention to which side your legislator fights for.

To learn more about what the West Virginia Rural Health Association is supporting this legislative session, contact Executive Director Debrin Jenkins at

Register-Herald: Hey West Virginia, Sen. Manchin Wants to Hear What CHIP Means to You

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By Wendy Holdren/Beckley Register-Herald

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is asking West Virginia families to share stories on how the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has made an impact in their lives and the lives of their children.

CHIP provides health insurance to almost nine million children in America, and ensures that more than 21,000 children in West Virginia have access to needed healthcare services.

To share your CHIP story with Sen. Manchin, email it to

“As any West Virginian, I believe that we must take care of our children first and foremost,” Manchin said. “No matter where a child lives or how much their family makes, we owe it to them to make sure they receive the best health care available.”

He called Congress’ failure to reauthorize CHIP “disgraceful.” The program expired Sept. 30 this year, and unless the program is reauthorized, West Virginia is expected to freeze enrollment in the program Feb. 28, 2018.

CHIP in West Virginia is currently 100 percent funded by the federal government. Without CHIP, Manchin said tens of thousands of West Virginian children are at risk of losing health insurance coverage…

Read the full story at

Follow the author on Twitter @WendyHoldren

As State Cuts Health and Education Spending, Local Groups Respond to Desperate Need for Accurate Health Data

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Concerned that state budget cuts are hampering the ability of the medical community to respond to the pressing public health issues facing West Virginia, one community organization serving southern West Virginia has made its own move to bridge that funding shortfall.

The Logan Healthcare Foundation recently paid for up-to-date health data and training support for 10 West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human Resources and Health Dept. employees serving Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, Boone and Lincoln counties.

This critical investment will give the 10 state employees access to West Virginia Rural Health Association’s Health Data Portal, the only online resource of its kind that tracks health statistics, workforce resources, health outcomes, services and facilities in West Virginia.

With more than 300 data sets and visualizations, the Health Data Portal is a powerful tool to help inform West Virginia Rural Health stakeholders, citizens, policy and decision-makers on where and how their health care demands are affecting the state.

This information can be used to demonstrate current health provider distribution relative to a health outcome, the economic impact of health care shortages within a community, trends in children in poverty, low birthweight babies, minority health, drug overdoses by county, resources for treatment and mental health services, and transit services to name a few.

Similar concerns from local education sector

And, with similar concerns that budget cuts in education could harm the ability of local universities to produce well-trained and well-resourced health professionals, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has funded access to the Health Data Portal for Bluefield State College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Marshall University, Shepherd University, West Liberty State College, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia State University, West Virginia University, and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

“Recent state budget cuts and the absence of easily accessible and current data hamper the ability of the higher education system to respond.”

“Higher education can play an important role in addressing the monumental issues facing West Virginia’s population including the opioid crisis, diabetes, and access to quality health care,” said Debrin Jenkins, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rural Health Association.

“But recent state budget cuts and the absence of easily accessible and current data hamper the ability of the higher education system to respond. Extending access to the West Virginia Health Data Portal will be a new tool that higher education can utilize to make advancements in tackling these critical issues. The use of current, more easily accessible data will undoubtedly equal better health results for the populations of the state.”

The West Virginia Health Data portal is an autonomous repository for health workforce data that provides a link between policy and practice. The portal provides data and maps to inform West Virginia rural health stakeholders, citizens, policy and decision-makers where and how their health care demands are affecting the state.

Trend analysis and supply and demand data for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, social workers and specialists is available, and the data maps visually show the areas of maldistribution of the health workforce down to the zip code level.

The portal is updated annually and describes health care shortages in rural areas.

For more information about the West Virginia Health Data Portal, visit